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STRATEGY

Agenda Lifesavers, Big and Little
 

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So you have a boardroom with important, high-net-worth people, who can only devote a limited amount of time to contributing to the success of your company. Do you really want to waste their time with a clumsy agenda? Here' s a roundup of board meeting agenda gems.

1. Condense administrative matters. Realize that many agenda items can be condensed. " In most boards, administrative matters are almost a rubber stamp," notes Bob Middlestadt, board honcho at the Wharton School. These items, such as personnel issues, credit line or expenditure approvals, can be sent in advance with the agenda as a proposed board resolution. At the meeting, they can be approved with a single vote (though if anyone wants to discuss an item, they are free to do so).

2. Open up committee meetings. Speaking of " rubber stamps," in the ideal board meeting, the whole board would have such confidence in the work of its committees that all committee recommendations would be swiftly waved through. In reality, though, the full board too often picks apart committee work, slowing the agenda and prompting mass frustration. Middlestadt encourages committee meetings just before the full board meetings, with a strong " open door" policy allowing interested non-committee members to " arrive early and sit in. By being there to hear the committee discussion [ but not taking part] , directors will have less to discuss in the full board meeting." Lacking a specific confidentiality issue, keep committee meetings open.

3. Use " interim minutes" . Between the actual board meeting with its agenda, and the minutes that go out in the next meeting' s info pack, there can be a huge gap. This means that directors forget what was discussed and what they may have committed to until just before the next meeting. Bill Chambers, a business strategist with BFO Consulting, recommends that boards respond with interim minutes. " Have someone at the meeting transcribe minutes as you go, and when you finish the meeting, print off a copy of what just went on," he suggests. These are not the true minutes, but interim minutes that directors can take home to remind themselves of business to be done, and also to review for mistakes or omissions.

Bob Middlestadt suggests that the CEO prepare a brief memo to directors a day or two before the board meeting. This is a sort of personal note to the agenda, " one or two pages of bullet points on items in the agenda the CEO would like to discuss, or to add detail or context." Such " agenda addenda" can speed the meeting by highlighting focus points.

" Don' t take a break for lunch," continues Middlestadt. " This just breaks the rhythm. In most boards I' m on now, if the morning' s work goes past lunch, they just bring lunch into the room and continue the work."

Copyright © 2001, the Boardroom Insider. No reproduction or forwarding of this material is allowed without legal permission. Views and advice expressed do not necessarily represent those of Ralph Ward or the Boardroom INSIDER newsletter, and should not be construed as legal or professional advice.

Last updated: Jun 29, 2001




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